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Asteroid QE2 Fly-By Captured In NASA Movie

June 10, 2013
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

[ Watch the Video: Radar Movie Of Asteroid QE2 And Its Moon ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Near-Earth asteroid QE2 and its moon, which safely completed a fly-by of our planet on May 31, is featured in new video footage released by NASA scientists over the weekend.

The movie clip was compiled using 55 images obtained using data collected at the Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California, officials at the US space agency announced. Each individual image featured in the video required approximately five minutes of data collection from the 230-foot-wide radar. That data collection took place on June 1, when the asteroid and its moon were about 3.75 million miles from Earth.

QE2´s satellite is roughly 2,000 feet wide, has an elongated appearance, and completes a revolution around the asteroid once every 32 hours, NASA officials said. The maximum distance between the host body and the moon is approximately four miles at any point during its orbit. Similar to our moon, the asteroid´s satellite appears to always show the same region of its surface to the primary asteroid — a phenomenon known as “synchronous rotation.”

In addition, the information obtained by the Goldstar scientists suggests that the primary body is approximately 1.9 miles in diameter and has a five-hour rotation period, making it one of the slowest and largest binaries yet discovered by planetary radar. According to NASA, about 16 percent of all near-Earth asteroids that are at least 655 feet in size are binary or triple systems.

“The trajectory of asteroid 1998 QE2 is well understood,” the space agency said. “The closest approach of the asteroid occurred on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. PDT (4:59 p.m. EDT / 20:59 UTC), when the asteroid got no closer than about 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers), or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon. This was the closest approach the asteroid will make to Earth for at least the next two centuries.”

According to an earlier BBC News report, at its closest point, QE2 was 200 times farther away from the Earth than another “near-miss” asteroid that occurred back in February. However, it was over 50,000 times larger than that object — Asteroid 2012 DA14 — giving astronomers a chance to study it in detail and capture high-resolution images of both it and its moon.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 was originally discovered on August 19, 1998, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program near Socorro, New Mexico. It wasn´t until May 30, one day before the asteroid completed its fly-by, that NASA scientists first discovered its moon.


Source: redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online